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Diamonds and Toads

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Diamonds-and-toads-by-margaret-evans-price-1921

1921 illustration by Margaret Evans-Price for "Diamonds and Toads".

"Diamonds and Toads", also known in English as "Toads and Diamonds" and "The Fairy", (French: "Les Fées", which literally means "The Fairies") is a fairy tale by the French author Charles Perrault. It is included in Perrault's 1697 anthology Histoires ou Contes du temps passé (Fairy Talees from Past Times with Morals or Mother Goose Tales). A similar story, "Le doie pizzele" ("The Two Cakes"), appears in the Pentamerone, the anthology of Italian folktales that was written some sixty years earlier by Giambattista Basile. According to the 1974 book The Classic Fairy Tales by Iona and Peter Opie, more than a thousand similar stories have been recorded in twenty different countries.

The story's protagonist is a kind young woman who is cruelly treated by her mother and older sister. Both sisters meet a fairy in disguise when they go to fetch water from a fountain. The younger one is rewarded for her kindness and the older one is punished for her rudeness.

Plot

There is a disagreeable old widow who has two daughters. The older daughter is just as rude and selfish as her mother. The younger daughter is good-natured and kind. She is also beautiful. She is badly treated by her mother and sister and is forced to do all the housework. Among the many other tasks she has to do, she has to take a long walk to the fountain twice a day to fill a large jug with water.

While going to the fountain one day, a poor-looking old woman approaches the younger daughter and asks her for some water. The younger daughter immediately agrees to the old woman's request. She holds the jug so that the old woman can drink more easily. The old woman is really a fairy in disguise. She says that, as a reward for her kindness, a flower or a precious gem will fall out of the younger daughter's mouth each time that she speaks.

Valentine, Laura - Aunt Louisa's Nursery Favourite - 0007

The fairy asks the younger daughter for some water. 1870 illustration by Laura Valentine.

When the younger daughter returns home, her mother chastises her for coming home so late. When the young woman apologizes, two roses, two pearls and two large diamonds come out of her mouth. For the first time ever, the young woman's mother takes an interest in her and asks her to explain how she got her magical gift. Many more diamonds fall from the young woman's mouth as she explains what happened.

So that her older daughter can receive the same gift, the widow tells her to go to the fountain as well. The older daughter does not want to go to the fountain. She very grudgingly agrees to go there, taking a silver tankard with her. A finely dressed woman who looks like a princess appears. She is really the same fairy that the younger daughter saw disguised as a poor old woman earlier. The fairy asks the older daughter for some water. Although the older daughter fetches her some water, she does it very grudgingly and speaks rudely to the fairy before she does so. Seeing how unkind the older daughter is, the fairy tells her that snakes and toads will fall from her mouth each time that she speaks.

When the older daughter tells her mother what has happened, two vipers and two toads fall from her mouth. The widow blames her younger daughter for bringing this misfortune on her family. She goes to beat the young woman, who runs out of the house and into the nearby forest.

A prince sees the young woman in the forest, alone and crying. He asks her why she is sad. When she replies, six pearls and six diamonds fall from her mouth. She goes on to tell her whole story to the prince. Knowing that he could not find a more beautiful or wealthier woman anywhere, the prince takes the young woman back to his castle and marries her.

The old widow grows to hate her older daughter because snakes and toads come out of her mouth each time that she speaks. The older daughter is chased out of the house also and dies alone in the forest.

Perrault concludes the tale with two short verses. According to the first verse, the moral of the story is that, although diamonds and money can do a lot to influence people, kind words can be even more influential. According to the second verse, the moral of the story is that, although being kind is often not easy, it is always rewarded in the end and often when one least expects it.

See also

External links

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